Australia news live: only 35 of 230 stranded whales still alive on Tasmanian beach; Queen remembered across nation;

Key events

Flights in and out of Sydney have been thrown into chaos by the wind and weather.

45 flights departing from Sydney have been cancelled so far. Up to 41 flights into Sydney have also been cancelled.

Sydney Airport has cancelled at least 40 flights due to heavy rain and strong winds. Multiple flood warnings have been issued as large parts of NSW battle poor weather.

— 10 News First Sydney (@10NewsFirstSyd) September 21, 2022

Penny Wong is in New York, at the United Nations General Assembly, which is why you haven’t seen her that much today.

We’ll bring you some more of what she said in just a moment.

But Simon Birmingham, her shadow, has been doing the rounds. He is also being very careful with his word choice – when it comes to foreign affairs, there is a convention that the two major parties maintain the same line, as it is meant to be bigger than politics.

Birmingham was asked about Wong’s second meeting with China’s foreign minister and says”:

I acknowledge that the Albanese Government has done the right thing, continuing to affirm that, although there has been a change of government in Australia, Australia’s national interests have not changed, that our strategic interests have not changed, and therefore with that there should be no change in relation to the application of policies that underpin those national and strategic interests of Australia.

If China is now willing to engage in ministerial-level dialogue and meetings with the new government, even though they have been unwilling in the past to do that with Australia, that’s welcomed because all Australian governments – the previous one and this one – have been willing to have that type of dialogue, notwithstanding disagreements, we should and ought be able to progress in areas of mutual interest.

It should be in our mutual interest to see peace and stability throughout the world. And I would urge the Albanese Government to apply all encouragement to China to use all influence China has to get Russia to cease and desist in its invasion of Ukraine, to urge Russia to lay down arms, to come to the negotiating table, and to provide for the best path to that peace and prosperity. China has remarkable potential influence that it can use in this regard and it ought to be encouraged and supported to do so.

NSW braces for potential floods and dam spills as heavy rain looms

Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam

The focus of NSW emergency crews will again be on the state’s north-east today with heavy rain forecast.

Another wet day is ahead with the falls likely to be concentrated in a region that includes Coffs Harbour and Kempsey.

The Bureau of Meteorology warning for severe weather covers a long stretch of the coast, up almost to the Queensland border, and includes parts that have had multiple floods in the past year or so.

Sydney’s dams, too, remain about 96% full, with Warragamba, the main one, near 98% full. It may start spilling again given the rain in the region. In fact, most major dams in NSW are full, or close to it.

The Murray Darling Basin Authority yesterday said the giant Dartmouth dam was likely to spill soon, for the first time in 26 years.

The climate drivers around Australia, including the return of a La Niña in the Pacific, mean we can expect above-average rainfall for the rest of 2022 for much of the country – and probably quite a bit more flooding.

Ducks, at least, will be happy.

Birmingham urges Albanese government to keep Australia at ‘forefront’ of Ukraine assistance

Here is a bit more from shadow foreign minister Simon Birmingham this morning on the government’s response to Ukraine:

Australia from the outset of Russia’s invasion some seven months or so ago now has been the leading non-NATO supporter of Ukraine, has delivered exceptional assistance across the military horizon in the provision of weapons and the provision of vehicles, as well as in the provision of financial assistance and humanitarian and other assistance. That is critical.

But we are aware and indeed you’ve spoken directly with Ukraine’s ambassador to Australia that there are now other outstanding requests made by Ukraine of Australia. And I would urge the Albanese government to make sure that they keep Australia at that forefront and to respond as expeditiously as they possibly can, because any assistance delayed in its provision to Ukraine only heightens the risk that Ukraine, who has been heroic in its battle to date, does not manage to maintain that level of defence.

And that is why we need to continue to deliver that support and because it is about defending and upholding the international rules-based order, the respect for the sovereignty of individual nations, and ensuring that out of this conflict others in the future are deterred from acting in any way similar to how Putin and Russia have acted on this occasion.

‘We need to continue to deliver that support’: Simon Birmingham.
‘We need to continue to deliver that support’: Simon Birmingham. Photograph: Mick Tsikas/AAP

John Farnham out of ICU and ‘progressing well’ after cancer surgery, family says

John Farnham’s family have released a statement on the singer’s progress after his cancer surgery

John’s recovery from last month’s surgery for mouth cancer is progressing well. His medical team are very pleased with his progress over the past month. He was moved from ICU and into a general ward a couple of weeks ago. That in itself was terrific progress.

This week John has been transferred into a rehabilitation facility. Each of these steps means things are moving in the right direction and for that we are enormously thankful.

Our family is so very grateful to all the remarkable teams of Victorian medical professionals who have taken such good care of John. These outcomes are a credit to their dedication, skills and compassion.

We have received many thousands of beautiful messages via the website since it was launched. Being surrounded by this much love and support has meant the world to us all. Thank you.

John Farnham performing in Sydney in 2019.
John Farnham performing in Sydney in 2019. Photograph: Hanna Lassen/WireImage

US Fed hikes interest rate by 0.75% to rein in inflation

Peter Hannam

Peter Hannam

The decision overnight by the US Federal Reserve to lift its interest rate by 75 basis points for a third meeting in a row was not a big surprise.

The new US cash rate target of 3% to 3.25% is the highest since before the global financial crisis in 2008.

And the median forecast for the end of 2022 is 4.4%, which points to further tightening to come this year.

Awkwardly for the Biden administration the next Fed open markets committee meeting is 1-2 November, just days before the 8 November mid-term elections. Republicans might well welcome another big rate rise if that helps them grab back control over either or both of the houses in the US Congress.

Anyway, higher interest rates in the world’s biggest economy will add headwinds to the global economy too, which RBA deputy governor Michele Bullock said yesterday was “on a bit of a knife edge”.

Relatively high US rates have been attracting investors to the US dollar, sending its rate higher against other currencies. The Australian dollar was marginally up this morning but has lost ground for most of the past six months.

The Australian dollar (and most other currencies) has been sliding in value against the US dollar for most of 2022 and may have further to go. (Source: Bloomberg)

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) September 21, 2022

The RBA, of course, isn’t done with rate rises, and is likely to hike by another 25bp or 50bp when its board next meets on 4 October. The rate rises will continue into mid-2023, if investors are correct.

Ahead of the US Fed’s 75bp rise in interest rates overnight, investors were predicting Australia’s cash rate to peak at almost 4% by next May, up from 2.35% now. They are still rating another 50bp RBA hike next month as a 3-in-4 chance.

— Peter Hannam (@p_hannam) September 21, 2022

However, a worsening global economy would likely limit those further rises and perhaps bring forward the next round of rate cuts.

Only 35 of 230 stranded whales still alive on Tasmanian beach

This may be distressing news for some readers.

The ABC is reporting that of the 230 pilot whales stranded in Tasmania, only 35 are thought to have survived, as rescuers race to save those still alive.

Incident controller Brendan Clarke said the conditions on the beach took their toll on the whales:

We positioned them overnight, again so that we could assess them this morning, and those ones that have survived – which we’ve got approximately 35 surviving animals out on the beach – the focus and the primary focus this morning will be on the rescue and release of those animals.

Unfortunately, we do have a high mortality rate out on this particular stranding. That’s predominantly due to the exposed conditions out on Ocean Beach. As opposed to the stranding that we had two years ago, where we had many of those animals in the estuary of the harbour and so they were actually stranded in much more sheltered waters. The environmental conditions, the surf out there on the exposed west coast, Ocean Beach, is certainly taking its toll on the animals.

A rescuer pours water on one of stranded whales on Ocean Beach, near Strahan.
A rescuer pours water on one of stranded whales on Ocean Beach, near Strahan. Photograph: AP

Flood warnings across NSW as heavy rain predicted today

If you are in New South Wales, make sure you keep an eye on the weather forecasts – more heavy rain is predicted, as AAP reports:

Communities on the mid-north coast, the Hunter and the northern rivers have been warned of possible flooding on Thursday, with heavy falls forecast across already saturated catchments.

“Heavy rainfall for the Hunter, the Mid North Coast and even the Northern Rivers can’t be ruled out,” Bureau of Meteorology senior meteorologist Jenny Sturrock said on Wednesday.

Thunderstorms are likely to develop in the afternoon, with heavy localised rainfall potentially dumping up to 120mm in six hours.

The heavy rain could spark flash flooding on the mid-north coast and northern rivers throughout Thursday and into Friday, with Lismore, Grafton, Taree and Coffs Harbour among areas to be effected.

It comes after severe thunderstorms with large hail, heavy rain and damaging winds hit inland NSW and southern Queensland on Wednesday.

Flooding impacted inland towns of Dubbo, Gunnedah and Tamworth on Wednesday afternoon and major flood levels were reached on the Lachlan, Narran and Macquarie rivers, Sturrock said.

Helicopters prepared to deliver supplies to the town of Wee Waa, between Narrabri and Walgett, as flooding cut the Kamilaroi Highway in both directions.

Gil McLachlan is then pushed for his tip on who will win the flag.

“Sydney by three points,” he says.

‘We’re better this year … but there’s still a lot of room for improvement’: McLachlan on Indigenous issues

Q: Does McLachlan want to establish a framework before he leaves the role to ensure players are not dealing with the same issues into the future?


I think that’s the right question, and I talked to the players last night about what can we do better? You have Indigenous welfare officers at every club, we have increasing amount of Indigenous representation in senior ranks, we have education programs, we have a wide range of structures, but how can they be improved?

And part of it is, the conversation went last night, is what are the forces outside that that actually means things are not talked about or addressed? And that’s where I’ve started that conversation last night. We generated a number of ideas around that, and we’ll be picking that up, because we have to continue each year to improve. And we know we can. We’re better this year than we were last year, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement.